October Is National Youth Justice Action Month

Posted October 10, 2021, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Four young people of different races smile at the camera while wearing masks.

Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Biden has pro­claimed Octo­ber 2021 as Nation­al Youth Jus­tice Action Month. His dec­la­ra­tion calls upon states, com­mu­ni­ties and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to give all of our young peo­ple a chance to live up to their full poten­tial,” espe­cial­ly those who have been side­lined by unnec­es­sary encoun­ters with the jus­tice system.”

The Pres­i­den­tial Proclamation

The procla­ma­tion empha­sizes a shared respon­si­bil­i­ty to sup­port America’s youth and ensure that they are in a posi­tion to thrive in every com­mu­ni­ty.” This means using approach­es that reflect young people’s devel­op­men­tal stages and capac­i­ty for change. Some of those approach­es are:

  • sup­port­ing proven ear­ly inter­ven­tion efforts like after­school and men­tor­ing programs; 
  • shift­ing away from incar­cer­a­tion as a default response to youth behav­ior and focus­ing instead on pre­ven­tion and sec­ond chances;
  • root­ing out long-stand­ing inequities, espe­cial­ly for youth of col­or and youth with dis­abil­i­ties; and
  • keep­ing teenagers under the juris­dic­tion of juve­nile courts rather than sys­tems built for adults.

Nate Balis, direc­tor of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group, said approach­es like these are vital to build­ing a brighter future for young peo­ple and help­ing them get on the right path when they’ve been in trou­ble with the law. We want a coun­try where young peo­ple — no mat­ter their race, eth­nic­i­ty, gen­der or neigh­bor­hood — can real­ize their poten­tial, even when they make seri­ous mis­takes,” Balis says. But we won’t achieve this vision unless we move away from a cul­ture of sur­veil­lance, pun­ish­ment and con­fine­ment and toward more effec­tive respons­es that hold youth account­able while sup­port­ing their per­son­al growth, pos­i­tive behav­ior change and long-term success.”

Get Involved Dur­ing Youth Jus­tice Action Month

The com­mem­o­ra­tion of Youth Jus­tice Action Month 2021 is host­ed by the Coali­tion for Juve­nile Jus­tice and the Nation­al Juve­nile Jus­tice Net­work, two non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions sup­port­ed by the Casey Foun­da­tion. Work­shops and oth­er events are open to the pub­lic and designed to inspire action on behalf of young peo­ple derailed by the legal system.

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